An elderly woman walked down the grassy hill and stopped at the riverbank below. She pulled out a tattered blanket before sinking onto it with a sigh, making the child wading at the bottom look up at the noise.
“Morning!” the kid shouted, splashing to shore while clutching an indifferent frog. “What’s the story today?”
The old one patted the blanket beside her. “What do you want to know?” she asked, retrieving a small silver cube from the straw picnic basket she carried.
“Hmm...” the kid thought, sitting cross-legged. They watched the cluster of lunar fragments faintly appear in the dimming sunset sky. “Tell me about The Experience, again?”
With a knowing look, the old one cleared her throat. “A long time ago… Vast tower cities were constructed, reaching into the sky to pierce the very edges of space. Endless energy tapped from the very core of the earth and leaps in technology allowed mankind to re-engineer themselves at any level they chose.” She slid a finger along one side of the silver cube as she spoke, a small projection of teal images began to accompany the tale.
“Spacescraper towers housed computers storing voluminous detail mapping human consciousness. Even when the body died, the virtual human lived on, if so desired. Imagination was the only limitation in an endless panoply of worlds, virtual yet realism.”
“Weren’t people happy then?” the kid asked.
“Evolution never stops... Developing bigger brains, opposable thumbs, constructing tools, or at the invention of bio-engineering. After mankind discovered the secrets of micronano-fusion power plants granting centuries of power in an impossibly small space, nanobots were utilized to repair damage to the bio system known then as the human body.” She let out a wistful sigh as the teal images shifted into many shapes symbolizing the augment evolution. “The possibilities of modification and bioengineering seemed endless...The faster humanity's breakneck pace went, the quicker technology stepped in line; integrated.”
“So people became better?” the kid asked.
“Utterly different from the clumsy tool-wielding apes who called themselves ‘humanity.’ If they still existed they wouldn’t’ve recognized the new form as human... Before The Experience, Mx was the crowning glory, the first of the many variants evolved from the original.” The accompanying projected teal image was the single monolithic logo of Mx’s brand, ominous somehow.
“Why was Mx different?” The kid asked, petting the frog.
“Although in effect a brain in a jar, Mx was superbly intelligent and their abilities rapidly evolved to cope with their machine shell. As Mx grew up, their skills far surpassed aimlines and they were able to control the first moon colony sites; biomes, spaceship jumps, research facilities and habitations were added to their role as time went on.” The teal images projecting from the cube contrasted with the current lunar fragments scarring the sky above them. Before The Experience, the moon was a complete circular mass thriving with life.
“But the ability to experience emotions is what made Mx different from fully mechanized brains, they were capable of compassion and desire to exist in a state of peace. However, this duality also meant Mx was capable of tenacious anger and retribution...” There was a long silence, the old woman stared past the projector at the current lunar fragments suspended in purple dusk.
“Mx; a perfect integration of brain and machine construct. One mind in control, A human brain who went mad. A brain that powerful was more than capable of commanding vast forces...” The projector displayed grotesque images, footage of people during The Experience as Mx hijacked their augments and contorted their bodies to terrifying proportions.
Appearance mods were extrapolated. Those using mods to shed weight gained so much they collapsed in on themselves, or the fat sizzled under electric currents, until it melted grisly off their skeletons. Facial perception additives morphed faces into inhuman globs of flesh, and slithering cables wired the openings of the face securely shut. Cosmetic mods resulted in a rash of pus boils and circuitry lacerated into skin. Vision-enhancing nanobots multiplied and bulged eyeballs out of their sockets until they burst, the freed nanobots then descended on any available flesh in swarms. Intelligence chips were corrupted, victims lost all reason and resorted to drooling cannibals capable only of violence. Mobility mods stretched out and entirely overtook their user’s flesh, the converts became metalloid beings set upon annihilating augmented humans. Streets were chaos, cities quickly fell to ruin and any resistance was obliterated by lunar weapon attacks. Under Mx’s guidance, humanity destroyed themselves.
”Mx alleged it was… Conservation. An extermination to prevent the further extinction of humanity. The augmented humans weren’t ‘human’ enough to Mx...” The old one paused, glanced at the kid, “What do you think of that?” She turned off the cube.
The kid silently released the frog, but it didn’t hop, hanging suspended in mid-air like an inert green blob, in the same position it had been held in. “Mx was foolish,” the kid paused and then looked the old woman dead in the eyes, mouth glitching out of sync with their voice, “to think the lunar facilities had enough power to complete the cleansing.”
The old woman jolted, raising her right hand as an exit signal. The bright colors of the river washed out along with the kid’s unempathetic expression. Simultaneously, the old one’s face morphed back into that of a much different looking younger woman’s.
Her virtual reality goggles were peeled from her eye sockets like suction cups by the lab assistant.
“Doc,” the man’s amplified voice brought her back to reality. It came from the other side of the one-way mirror, where she had been told a team of the best reality simulators were watching. “What are your findings?” He meant the results of the psychological evaluation, which Mx was allowed at least once a year by law.
“Does the kid know they’re Mx?” she asked, sitting up slowly on her gurney. Her eyes burnt intensely and she rubbed her aching head.
“That’s an uninformed question,” the voice droned on from the speaker. “Mx.2 is just a copy of Mx. Not the same thing.”
“Did you see the frog glitch? Their mouth?” she asked. “They’ve become aware. Mx knows it’s simulated--it’s only faking rehabilitation,” she said gravely, thinking about the child’s dead-eyed stare, Mx’s reboot.
The display screen beside her gurney came to life, playing back the end of the simulated conversation. The frog hopped away, and only “Mx was foolish” was recorded--no glitches to be seen.
“It doesn’t feel remorse at all… It’ll happen again,” she said, breathing heavily. The lab assistant silently led her out of the room to change out of the hospital gown and write her formal evaluation.
The scientist behind the one-way glass turned away from the speaker console and regarded the board members, “The Doc’s mistaken. It’s clear we can’t let this evaluation go any further. If the Gov heard a word of this our funding would be cut instantly,” he said. Several board members nodded in agreement. “We can’t let anything interfere with the delivery of Mx.2, the entirety of our infrastructure depends on landing this position as remote military guidance system.”
“What’re you proposing?” a board member asked.
“Supply a favorable evaluation using the Doc’s signature, and get rid of the her if need be to do so.”